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Malaria positivity following a single oral dose of azithromycin among children in Burkina Faso: a randomized controlled trial.

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Azithromycin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic that has moderate antimalarial activity and has been shown to reduce all-cause mortality when biannually administered to children under five in high mortality settings in sub-Saharan Africa. One potential mechanism for this observed reduction in mortality is via a reduction in malaria transmission.


We evaluated whether a single oral dose of azithromycin reduces malaria positivity by rapid diagnostic test (RDT). We conducted an individually randomized placebo-controlled trial in Burkina Faso during the high malaria transmission season in August 2020. Children aged 8 days to 59 months old were randomized to a single oral dose of azithromycin (20 mg/kg) or matching placebo. At baseline and 14 days following treatment, we administered a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) to detect Plasmodium falciparum and measured tympanic temperature for all children. Caregiver-reported adverse events and clinic visits were recorded at the day 14 visit.


We enrolled 449 children with 221 randomized to azithromycin and 228 to placebo. The median age was 32 months and 48% were female. A total of 8% of children had a positive RDT for malaria at baseline and 11% had a fever (tympanic temperature ≥ 37.5 °C). In the azithromycin arm, 8% of children had a positive RDT for malaria at 14 days compared to 7% in the placebo arm (P = 0.65). Fifteen percent of children in the azithromycin arm had a fever ≥ 37.5 °C compared to 21% in the placebo arm (P = 0.12). Caregivers of children in the azithromycin group had lower odds of reporting fever as an adverse event compared to children in the placebo group (OR 0.41, 95% CI 0.18-0.96, P = 0.04). Caregiver-reported clinic visits were uncommon, and there were no observed differences between arms (P = 0.32).


We did not find evidence that a single oral dose of azithromycin reduced malaria positivity during the high transmission season. Caregiver-reported fever occurred less often in children receiving azithromycin compared to placebo, indicating that azithromycin may have some effect on non-malarial infections. Trial registration NCT04315272, registered 19/03/2020.

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